Today I want to talk about eating disorders, specifically looking at anorexia, in France. One of the huge stereotypes of French women is that they’re thin and beautiful; this is very, very true. Particularly where I live, in Aix-en-Provence, the women are stunning. This is a great thing (particularly for the men) but can also be a bad thing.
Interestingly enough, whilst I was teaching, I would speak about the topic of pressure on women and eating disorders with my older students to get them talking. Everyone was so passionate and everyone had differing opinions on the subject. The main jury was that there’s almost more pressure on French women than other women in the world to be beautiful, because the women are so beautiful. Some students also confided in me about issues that they’ve had with their appearance. Despite that they’re beautiful, they feel a lot of pressure to be really thin and be that extra-special looking girl.
It would be stupid to say that women all over the rest of the world feel no pressure, that is completely and utterly wrong. But I do see that French women have this extra pressure which can lead to some serious issues.
On top of this, women aren’t as nice to each other as they are in other countries. With people from all over the world outside of France, there’s always a certain bond between women. We stick together when one of us is in need and we like to share our worries and feelings with each other. In France, it’s generally a completely different story. It takes a lot longer to become friends with someone and usually the first time I meet a French woman, we say hi and don’t talk one-to-one for the rest of the evening, only if we’re contributing to the group topic. Perhaps the next time we meet, we have more discussions, but it’s most likely that you will only start to really talk a few times after meeting them.
Americans and British people, I feel, are the complete opposite. There’s no social boundaries on who you talk to, you just talk to everyone about anything that’s happening. I think this partly has to do with alcohol consumption and the confidence alcohol gives you, as the French drink a huge amount less than the rest of us on a night out, but that’s just one reason out of many.
Anyway, if you haven’t seen, France has very recently made some new laws on eating disorders. Here’s a summary of the new laws:
- France will ban excessively thin fashion models (through medical exams) and expose modelling agencies that hire the models. This will lead to possible fines and even jail.
- Lawmakers also made it illegal to condone anorexia and said any re-touched photo that alters the bodily appearance of a model for commercial purposes must carry a message stating it had been manipulated.
And my favourite;
- Any website inciting a reader to “seek excessive thinness by encouraging eating restrictions for a prolonged period of time, resulting in risk of mortality or damage to health” will face up to a year in prison and fines of up to 100,000 euros.
Some people may not know, but if you search ‘anorexia’ or ‘ana’ in to Instagram/Twitter/Tumblr, you will find pictures of extremely thin women and girls fawning after this appearance. I once came across a post that said ‘for every 1 like I get, I won’t eat for 1 hour’ and the picture had over 50 likes.
So, this law by France is incredible and is, hopefully, a stepping stone to change in laws across the world. Everyone sees and knows about the girls who die from these illnesses yet it’s still taboo. I’m so proud of France for putting this in place and taking a step to help the girls who suffer from this disease (an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 in France) and also to reduce the number of people being diagnosed.
After reading this two months ago, I’ve had a lot of time to think and whilst I’m still exceedingly happy this is being put in place, I have thought about the other side of it too.
Americans and British people, in particular, are not great examples for France to follow food-wise, but that is what’s happening. Whilst France still eat generally well, the amount of processed food and rubbish that is available here is increasing. Ten years ago, I remember everything being fresher, but it’s becoming more normal to eat crap.
For example, the kids I used to au pair would eat so much sugar and chocolate after school, which the parents told me I had to give them. When I hadn’t given them at least a large chocolate bar, they’d be really low on energy and really hungry by dinner. You would assume the parents knew that if the kids were eating fruit and vegetables, they’d be fuller longer and it’s healthier for them.
I recognise that this is one very small example and it is the parents’ choice but I’m beginning to questioning if France are moving backwards, and more towards the British and American style of eating rather than the healthy and fresh style they’re known for. It is quite evident that they are moving in this direction, which is scary.
All in all, it’s a very interesting topic and I’ve been following the results of the laws quite closely as I’m passionate that it continues to be an important topic. Do you think it’s a good idea that France have passed these laws?
This is part of a new series of mine. I will be talking about a subject from A-Z twice a week.
L: Leaving Aix